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Studying the chickasaurus

Science

My brother likes to come up close to me at random times and in a mock professorial voice say: “We know for certain that the universe was once a giant muffin.” No matter how many times he does that, I still laugh.

I heard a variation the other day on our local public radio station, except this person was serious. The woman making the authoritative statement was really a doctor of something, as well as a science writer and regular contributor to WHYY’s The Pulse about “health, science, and innovation.” In the course of a report on research about chickens in the country of Chile, Bethany Brookshire said to the program’s host:

“As we know, chickens are evolutionarily related to dinosaurs.”

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This is what we have come to, ladies and gentlemen. Not only is evolution as a theory a done deal—not only is any alternative viewpoint regarding the universe and species not permitted to be debated in our august institutions of knowledge—but these people have it down to the minutest details of chickenhood.

It gets better. Brookshire’s passing comment on chickens was only her premise, only what “we know for certain” (as my brother would say in lighthearted mockery). That statement passed totally unchallenged, with heads at the radio station nodding sagely at this common knowledge about the feathered fowl we serve at our dinner tables—whom, it must be granted, do indeed have two legs and do walk, like some dinosaurs had and did.

The real kicker was when Brookshire said that researchers she came across in Chile fasten something to the tails of young chickens that very much resemble “toilet plungers” and then watch the bemused birds walk around (see video clip below). Why do the Chilean scientists do this, you may ask? Elementary, my dear Watson. They obviously do this in order “to weigh the chickens down in such a way as to replicate the posture and walk of dinosaurs.”

Hey, you know what it reminds me of? (I just thought of it right now and cracked myself up.): In Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit episode “The Wrong Trousers,” a criminal genius penguin dresses up in a fake chicken costume and nearly gets away with pulling a heist. He didn’t look much sillier than chickens with toilet plungers attached to their rear ends.

I just wonder if people in white lab coats who like to say, “We know for certain that …” remember the paleoanthropological hoax we learned about in high school called the Piltdown Man.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.

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